Jeanne Swerlin, 96, throws her bouquet of flowers after officialising her marriage to US WWII veteran Harold Terens, 100, in the town hall of Carentan-les-Marais, in Normandy

Carentan (France) (AFP) - It might have been the longest wait but on Saturday 100-year-old American World War II veteran Harold Terens married his 96-year-old fiancee in Normandy, just days after being honoured on the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northern France.

To the sounds of “I will always love you”, “Ave Maria” and bagpipes, Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin said “I do” in the town of Carentan-les-Marais at a ceremony attended by dozens of guests, some wearing military uniforms.

“I waited 96 years to find the right man and now I have a wedding like only a queen and king can have,” Swerlin told AFP before the ceremony.

Terens, who wore a light blue suit, entered the local wedding hall to applause from family and friends. His young great-granddaughter scattered flower petals on the floor.

Dressed in satin pink, Swerlin made her entrance to the sound of Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you”. The bride and groom embraced, swaying with emotion.

“Oui!” Swerlin said in French when asked by the mayor, Jean-Pierre Lhonneur, if she wished to take Terens to be her husband.

“I’m so moved. Knowing Harold, of course something this incredible was going to happen,” said Helena Terens, his daughter-in-law.

Terens and Swerlin, who live in Boca Raton, Florida, tied the knot after the Allies commemorated the 80th anniversary of the June 6 Normandy landings, with US President Joe Biden, Britain’s King Charles III, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron in attendance.

Anne-Marie Ruffier, a 66-year-old local, called the wedding a “unique event”.

“It’s also a way of thanking this man who helped liberate France,” she told AFP.

- ‘Powerful symbol’ -

Pierre Le Goubey, 69, said he “wouldn’t have missed this wedding for the world”.

100-year-old American World War II veteran Harold Terens married his fiancee 96-year-old Jeanne Swerlin in Normandy, northwestern France

“It’s a powerful symbol,” he said, adding that in a way the veteran was “marrying France”.

“We are very honored that Mr. Terens has chosen to marry here, in Carentan, where in June 1944 the Allied troops landed on the beaches of Utah and Omaha,” the mayor said before the ceremony.

“We’ll be offering him champagne, of course, but also a gift to thank him for taking part in the liberation of France.”

The wedding was to be followed by a celebration “with his loved ones, in a small group”, said Sarah Pasquier, the town hall’s representative for D-Day commemorations.

After the ceremony, Terens may join in a parade of veterans in the centre of Carentan during the afternoon, according to Pasquier.

A liberation ball will be also be held in the evening as part of the D-Day commemorations, she said, with attendees “invited to dress in the 1940s theme, and soldiers from the nearby American base welcome”.

- ‘Unbelievable guy’ -

Terens was awarded the French Legion of Honour by Macron in 2019.

During the war he was also part of a secret mission that took him to Soviet Ukraine via Casablanca, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Cairo, Baghdad and Tehran.

After the war Terens married his first wife, Thelma, with whom he spent 70 years and raised three children until her death in 2018.

In 2021, a friend introduced him to Swerlin, a charismatic woman who had also been widowed, and the two have been inseparable practically ever since.

“She lights up my life, she makes everything beautiful,” Terens told AFP last month in Florida. “She makes life worth living.”

“It’s a love story like you’ve never heard before,” he added.

Swerlin said Terens was “an unbelievable guy”.

“He’s handsome – and he’s a good kisser.”